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Product Reviews

  1. Hardware Review: Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio

    by , 07-23-2010 at 11:03 AM


    What is it?


    The Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio is a USB device which allows FM and DAB broadcast to be controlled and played through a computer.

    The Verdict: The Ultimate Computer DAB / FM USB Radio is a solid solution when searching for an FM capable radio device. The fact that it is controlled and powered but only usb means its easy to install and less susceptible to interference in a car computer setup. You wont get digital FM broadcast, nor AM radio, but the Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio worked every bit as well as an OEM radio deck.



    What's in the box?

    The Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio comes with the radio module and a USB cable. It should be noted that the device does not come with an SMB to motorola cable which is needed to connect the Venice 7 to a car antenna in the US.


    Description

    The Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio is the latest in radio devices to hit the car pc arena. Its true claim to fame is the fact that it carries both FM and DAB broadcast within the same unit. There have been other devices on the market which have this feature, but the Ultimate Radio's reception quality rivals after-market head unit reception quality. No, it doesn't have digital or "HD" FM capabilities, but in all honesty, the Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio sounds every bit as good as my HDRadio, and it has a smaller footprint as well.

    Another key feature of the Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio is the fact that its powered by only a USB cable. Again, there have been other devices which have been USB-only, but none that I've experienced can match the sound quality of the Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio. The obvious benefit to being powered by USB is the ease of installation. To get the Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio radio working you simply need to connect the USB to your computer. The drivers are windows standard drivers, so no CD or download is necessary. After the driver installation, connect your factory antenna to a SMB to Motorola adapter cable (not included) for FM signal. The last step simply involves running a 3.5mm patch cable(also not included) from the Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio device to the line-in on the computer. Sadly, there's no USB-over-audio applied.


    Once the radio is installed, its just a matter of finding a program for the computer to manage it. Impressively enough, there are already plugins for both RideRunner and Centrafuse front ends available prior to the formal release of the Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio. There's also a standalone application available from the designers website. All applications for the Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio are built to manage both the FM and DAB radio functions of the unit.

    The Positive:

    • High-quality sound in FM mode (could not test DAB)
    • Both DAB and FM work through 1 antenna port
    • Smaller than most high quality radios available
    • USB controlled and USB powered. Installation is a breeze

    The Negative:

    • No casing
    • Lacks AM radio
    • May require purchasing extra accessories

    The Verdict:

    The Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio USB radio is a solid solution when searching for an FM capable radio device. The fact that it is controlled and powered but only usb means its easy to install and less susceptible to interference in a car computer setup. You wont get digital FM broadcast, nor AM radio, but the Ultimate Computer DAB / FM Radio sounds every bit as well as an OEM radio deck.
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  2. Secure Print Start Fingerprint Car Security System Review With How-To Video

    by , 07-07-2010 at 01:14 PM


    What is it?

    The SecurePrint Start Fingerprint Security System is a car security device which allows engine starting and vehicle access to be controlled by fingerprint identification.

    The Verdict: The SecurePrint Start Start At Once Fingerprint Car Security System is a great solution for individuals or companies looking to add additional security to their vehicles. Once installed, the system seamlessly integrates and effectively protects a vehicle from theft. However, the system is not designed to replace components already installed if the vehicle for starting.

    The SecurePrint Start system is available now at the MP3Car store

    Embed this video





    What's in the box:


    The SecurePrint Start system consists of the main brain box, a fingerprint scanner, a dialpad, 2 wiring harnesses, a voice-command speaker, an instruction manual, and a wiring guide.

    Description:

    The SecurePrint Start Fingerprint Car Security system may just be the answer for someone looking for added security for their vehicle. The system clearly goes above the standard OEM car security featured in most cars today. With the power of fingerprint technology, the SecurePrint Start system deters anyone from stealing your vehicle without your clear consent.

    I was initially surprised at the ease of installation. Most self-installed security systems come with hardly legible, confusing instructions and wiring diagrams. The SecurePrint Start system however is pretty much a breeze to install. The wires are clearly numbered, and the wiring guide uses the numbers to show where each wire needs to go. There is some factory wiring you need to cut, specifically the wiring to the starter, fuel pump, and vehicle ECU, but this is standard fare with do-it-all systems. You certainly don’t have to have a Master’s degree in electronic engineering to install the unit into the vehicle. The configuration of the system once installed is easy as well. The system uses the combination of the fingerprint scanner and the accessory dial-pad to allow users to enter new fingerprints. Each entry on the dial-pad is greeted with a loud and clear (yet somewhat disturbing) voice confirmation through the systems included speaker. This system is infinitely more efficient than the trial-and-error or dip-switch type systems I’ve installed in the past. At an estimated guess, I would say it would take the average DIY installer no more than 2 hours to wire and configure the entire system. A video showing the ease of fingerprint enrollment can be found below.


    Once installed, the system is activated as simple as pressing your enrolled finger into the fingerprint scanner. In my testing it took less than a second for my finger to be identified and the vehicle to start. Unfortunately, it takes far longer for me to reach into my pocket, take out my key, and turn the ignition. Yes, you still need to do this in order for the SecurePrint Start system to activate. A friend had mentioned perhaps tucking the ignition cylinder away with the key in it, but this is not feasible because the unit depends on removing the key to turn the engine off. Once the vehicle is started the SecurePrint Start system is completely passive. You will still need to use your keyfob for vehicle entry, so people looking for an easier alternative than the factory systems today should look elsewhere.

    The SecurePrint Start system allows up to 9 different enrolled fingerprints and 3 different categories for users, so multiple drivers, families and fleet vehicles can all enjoy the benefits of added security.

    The Positive:
    • Added peace of mind from an additional layer of security
    • Easy to install
    • Voice guided configuration
    • Limits access to vehicle and Car PCs
    • Cuts power to fuel pump, starter motor, and ECU
    • Fingerprint scanner easily molds into most vehicle dashboards

    The Negative:
    • Does not replace vehicles factory ignition
    • Length of proprietary cables limits installation flexibility

    The Verdict:

    The SecurePrint Start Start At Once Fingerprint Car Security System is a great solution for individuals or companies looking to add additional security to their vehicles. Once installed, the system seamlessly integrates and effectively protects a vehicle from theft. However, the system is not designed to replace components already installed if the vehicle for starting.

    Updated 08-11-2010 at 08:57 AM by optikalefx

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  3. Hardware Review: XoByte miniSpark Startup/Shutdown Controller

    by , 05-17-2010 at 09:11 AM


    What is it?


    The XoByte miniSpark is a startup and shutdown controller that uses Wake-On-LAN capabilities to handle startup and shutdown of your laptop or PC.

    The Verdict: If you use a laptop or netbook as your car PC you should own a miniSpark. The people at XoByte have seemingly created the perfect solution to handling the startup and shutdown of a computer and it's associated accessories in the car. The one thing that impresses me the most is the control it gives the user, all while using only your LAN port and saving a precious USB port.



    What's in the box?

    The XoByte miniSpark comes with the main controller box, a 6-wire connector, and a pair of automotive fuse adapters for 12v power.


    Description:

    The XoByte miniSpark is a powerful device which allows control of a netbook,laptop, or personal computer's startup and shutdown capabilities through Wake-On-LAN technology. The real power in the miniSpark comes from the user's ability to control its various functions all from within the miniSpark Configuration GUI. This tool is compatible with Windows computers running XP or higher, and allows even beginner users to control the miniSpark's functions with both ease and simplicity.


    After a brief period in which the miniSpark checks to see if the device is connected, the GUI is presented. The top left box in the GUI is nothing more than a set of status indicators which give you the real-time view of each of the 2 inputs and 2 outputs of the miniSpark. If a WOL shutdown event occurs the miniSpark GUI will display the system status on the LED images and also via a pop-up which counts the time remaining to shutdown.


    The bottom left gives users the ability to use either of the 2 inputs to run the appropriate user-configurable shutdown command with the shutdown and startup delays specified. As if the basic settings weren't powerful enough, XoByte allows configuration of both outputs independently. This allows one miniSpark unit to individually shutdown and power up 2 different devices with there own unique settings. For advanced users this capability is invaluable because you can control things like USB hubs, lighting, and other self-powered devices independently of the PC. Each output can be controlled with either included inputs or totally manually through the miniSpark configuration utility. The outputs can also be delayed at startup or shutdown after the PC has been started or shutdown. The ability to set your pulse-width for outputs and to set repeating triggers means the XoByte miniSpark is as flexible as you will ever find a shutdown controller to be. There is even an API available which allows the control of the miniSpark configuration utility to be harnessed in a user-selected front end.


    Despite the flexibility of its software setup, the miniSpark is just as easy to install as any other automotive power supply. Because its not a fully-functional power supply, the miniSpark's red power wire can be powered through an 1-amp automotive fuse. XoByte was even kind enough to include a set of automotive fuse adapters so you can just plug into your vehicles fuse box to power the device. The black wire as in most cases is the ground. The white and green wires are input #1 and #2 respectively, and would in most cases be connected to the automobiles accessory or ignition lines. Should you only wish to use a single input the green wire can be ignored. Lastly, the brown and blue wires are #1 and #2 output wires. PCs that are not "magic frame" WOL capable will need to use one of the outputs to power on the PC through the ACPI lines.

    Once wired, the XoByte miniSpark hardware is ready to go. The only other notable feature would be the single green LED which shows the status of the miniSpark through a series of blinks.


    The Positive:

    • Small hideaway box, but so much power and control capabilities
    • Allows startup/shutdown control without opening up a laptop
    • Uses WOL technology, saving a USB port• Efficiently runs on less than 1 amp
    • A simple GUI which continues to be updated with more control features
    • Ability to control multiple accessory outputs with multiple individually controlled inputs
    • API available for front end integration

    The Negative:

    • Windows XP+ only
    • Computer must be WOL "Magic Frame" capatible for WOL use

    The Verdict:

    If you use a laptop or netbook as your car PC you should own a miniSpark. The people at XoByte have seemingly created the perfect solution to handling the startup and shutdown of a computer and its associated accessories in the car. The one thing that impresses me the most is the control it gives the user, all while using only your LAN port and saving a precious USB port.

    Updated 05-17-2010 at 11:24 AM by Sonicxtacy02

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  4. Hardware Review: Habey USA BIS-6620 Ultra-Compact PC

    by , 05-12-2010 at 10:53 AM

    What is it?

    The Habey BIS-6620 is a SFF PC powered by an Intel Atom Z510 processor.

    The Verdict: The Habey USA BIS-6620 is an absolute marvel of a design. The manufacturer has created fully functioning PC cable of running the latest software in a form factor which can fit in the palm of your hand. Quite frankly, the BIS-6620 could be used at home, in the car, or as an embedded platform. Unfortunately it’s small size and power-sipping capabilities mean this PC would probably be a lot more comfortable with Windows Embedded than with Windows 7.

    The BIS-6620 is available now at the MP3Car store



    What's in the box:


    The BIS-6620 comes with the PC, a PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse splitter cable, 12v power brick, and driver and utilities installation disc. Also included are four long screws for VESA mount support.

    Description:

    Right out of the box the Habey USA BIS-6620 has a certain “wow” factor. Measuring at only 4.5 x 4.5 x 1.5”, it immediately has the potential to be everyone’s dream car PC. The BIS-6620 is also built with a completely fan-less design, making it silent in operation. It’s powered by a single-core Intel Z510 processor clocked at 1 GHz and is built to use up to 2 GHz of SODIMM (laptop) ram. Despite its size, the BIS-6620 is surprisingly flexible when it comes to drive storage. Internally, the 6620 accepts a 1.8” SATA hard drive. However, thanks to a bios setting which allows removable drives to be emulated as physical disks, you have the option to install and run your primary operating system from a compact flash card. There is also an SD card slot on the front of the PC just adjacent to the CF slot.

    The BIS-6620 is powered by a simple 12v power brick, further enhancing its potential to be used as a car PC. The computer is a true power-sipper, and can be run with less than 10w and 2amps. It’s hard to imagine that a PC that’s fully capable of running windows 7 can do so with less power than your average car speaker requires to play sound.

    Upon installing the components required to make the BIS-6620 power up, I connected a USB DVD-Rom and installed a fresh copy of windows 7 32-bit. Once installation was complete I was brought into the OS. I quickly noticed that the BIS-6620 doesn’t support Aero, or the transparent glass effects on a standard non-Aero windows 7 installation. Moving through windows dialogs seemed to occur with ample speed, but waiting for basic programs like Wndows Media Payer and Centrafuse 3 became quite the chore even at their most basic program settings. It’s clear that while there are many pros to the BIS-6620, the obvious setback is the 1 GHz processor. That said; the BIS-6620 handled MP3 playback with ease. It will even play 1080p videos with little to no skipping and video sync issues thanks to hardware decoding.


    Video is provided only via VGA or S-Video connections. There is no support for DVI or HDMI and based on the form factor of the BIS-6620 (Habey has different models that do have DVI & HDMI output in the same form factor), you probably won’t be adding a video card capable of such. There is a single audio output jack on the front, and a microphone input just next to that. The lack of a line-in jack means your radio and other input devices better have “audio over USB” support. There is a single LAN port, a total of 4 USB ports, and a single PS/2 which can provide both keyboard and mouse support with the enclosed splitter cable.


    The case of the BIS-6620 is a marvel in itself. The finned design on the top serves as a fully functioning heat-sink for the Intel processor. Because of this design the casing does run hotter than your average computer case, but never to the point where the case was simply too hot to touch. On the edges of the case are four holes which allow the BIS-6620 to be mounted on a VESA mount. All this allows for the BIS-6620 to truly be an ultra-compact, silent, and unseen fully functioning PC.

    The Positive:

    • Small design but capable fully functioning PC
    • Flexible storage options
    • Performance and reliability of the Intel Atom product
    • Energy efficient design (

    Updated 05-26-2010 at 11:33 AM by Jensen2000

    Tags: habey, bis, 6620, fanless, pc Add / Edit Tags
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  5. Software Review: Jukebox Jockey Home Edition

    by , 04-27-2010 at 02:45 PM


    What is it?

    Jukebox Jockey is a touch-friendly media player and karaoke front end.

    The Verdict:The Jukebox Jockey software has been a joy to review. Its very feature-rich and some new innovations not yet seen in the car PC arena. The software is as simple or as flexible as you choose for it to be and never gets in a users way thanks to a clever GUI. Any mobile PC user looking for well-supported program to manage most of their media on the go should look first at Jukebox Jockey.

    Jukebox Jockey is available now at http://www.jukeboxjockey.com/



    Description:

    Jukebox Jockey is a windows application built to be a simple yet fully functioning media player. It’s different from the multitude of existing media player software in that Jukebox Jockey is built from the ground up to be touchscreen-friendly. This obviously has plenty of benefits on a small screened car PC, but Jukebox Jockey also shines in a party environment. Most of my review will focus on Jukebox Jockeys aspirations as a simple media car PC front end, but I will say the app is simply the best application out there for controlling music, video, and karaoke playback for a group of people.



    A person looking for a simple and powerful media player for their 7-inch touchscreen should seriously consider Jukebox Jockey. While it lacks the expansion that most other commercially available mobile PC front ends offer, it does what it’s meant to do with absolute ease. The entire interface is skinnable. The buttons are large enough to be pressed on your standard car touchscreen and for the most part they are text-labeled when they need to be. This means you know what the button does before you press it. While the application will run at 800x600, the developer is currently working on skinning options for resolutions that low. There is no “home” screen which houses all of the media options, rather a simple “Change Mode” button which brings up a small menu which allows selection.



    From there, it’s easy to find the media you’re looking for. The top portion of the application window allows you to select how you wish to find your media. Browse-by-album-art is present, and will perhaps be the preferred method. The ability to sort by decades is a new and welcomed feature when comparing to other vehicle front ends. There is also a pretty handy instant search function which searches for results each time a key on the on-screen QWERTY keyboard is pressed. All media is scanned into Jukebox Jockey via the options button on the top of the application. Scanning media is relatively quick, but it does have to be done each time new music/videos are added.



    Playlists are housed on the right side of the application window. Jukebox Jockey has a different take on playlist handling. By default, the playlist shrinks as songs are played. In Jukebox Jockey the playlist is more of a request list, and this makes sense considering the software doubles as DJ software. Overall the music and video players rivals most other media players on the market.



    What you won’t find in most media players and especially on car PCs is a karaoke mode. This mode was by far the most fun to use in a party environment, but I did have passengers in the car playing as I drove down the road. Jukebox Jockey is very easy for passengers and newcomers to control. There is even a specific party mode which administrators can enable to lock down settings and controls that secondary users would not need access too.

    The Positive:

    • Built to be touchscreen friendly
    • Built-in media library which organizes/searches media in a multitude of ways
    • Fully Skinnable• 2nd Screen support for media information and karaoke lyrics
    • Simple installation on any PC with windows XP or newer
    • Small footprint and doesn’t use too much memory
    • Easy to use for beginners, a huge list of options for experienced users
    • Bass audio engine for high audio fidelity
    • Actively supported

    The Negative:

    • Video player did not support h264 encoded videos

    • No current skin for 800x480

    The Verdict:

    The Jukebox Jockey software has been a joy to review. Its very feature-rich and some new innovations not yet seen in the car PC arena. The software is as simple or as flexible as you choose for it to be and never gets in a users way thanks to a clever GUI. Any mobile PC user looking for well-supported program to manage most of their media on the go should look first at Jukebox Jockey.

    Jukebox Jockey is available now at http://www.jukeboxjockey.com/

    Updated 04-27-2010 at 03:11 PM by Sonicxtacy02

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